The Opinion of the Arab Street

The latest episode of the satirical news programme Tashweesh Wadih (“Clear Confusion”) on Ro’ya (about which I wrote a bit more extensively earlier this year) by necessity featured an extended comment on Israel’s most recent attacks on the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. The presenter, Muath al-Bzour, dealt with the issue with some gravity, but in proper Tashweesh fashion the scene was then taken over by the Israeli-mocking character figure Shalot – turned on its head and made comedic by Shalot’s erratic behavior and non-sequitur responses despite Bzour’s best “attempts” to keep the tone serious.

And then there is this next bit, where a Tashweesh correspondent goes to ask “the Arab street” why it did not respond to the al-Aqsa attacks more strongly. (Snapshot below; the segment runs from cca. 5:20 onward in the YouTube video.)

thearabstreet

The correspondent lowers the microphone to the road surface, in order to interview “the street” quite literally. His nasal tone and slow, strained, overly formal language mimics the stiff demeanor of Jordanian (and other Arabic-language) TV correspondents. A question follows – “What action will you take in response to these attacks on the al-Aqsa Mosque?” – but the street is silent, which leads the correspondent to comment “we have not come at an appropriate time to learn the opinion of the Arab Street.”

Taking idiomatic language literally is, of course, one of the most elementary techniques of comedy. But at another level, this particular sketch is also a brilliant spoof of an idiom that is used all too often in soundbite-friendly media contexts – to the extent it’s become all but empty of meaning. Sociopolitical shorthand, in other words, that is as meaningless and uninformative as, indeed, shooting questions at a stretch of empty Jordanian asphalt.

The Opinion of the Arab Street

Stick-poking on Ro’ya

Jordan’s most recent sandstorm has faced strong competition in news sources in the past week from the most recent controversy regarding Roya TV, a Jordan-based, locally oriented web and satellite TV channel whose which has gained a lot of popularity in recent years. The point of contention was a video clip showing a sketch from a satirical programme broadcast on the channel a few weeks ago, in which a female presenter – sitting in a studio made to look like it was a show aimed at children – read out what apparently began as children’s stories but ended up describing situations with clear romantic or sexual overtones. The clip was widely circulated and critiqued by “activists” (نشطاء، nušaTaa’) – as the press put it – on social media, and culminated in legal proceedings being initiated against the channel as well as a judicial order to suspend the programme in question by Jordan’s Audiovisual Media Commission, for broadcasting “obscenities” that had offended “public opinion.”

roya storytelling

The clip (screenshot above; the full video can be seen embedded in various news stories e.g. here and here) has the presenter stopping abruptly whenever she reaches an ‘ambiguous’ (i.e., sexually or romantically loaded) section of a children’s story, giving a grimace of surprise or horror, and then rifling through the pages of the book she is holding in order to find a more appropriate story – only to find yet more sexual overtones (and, at the end of the clip, what seems like an especially ‘interesting’ drawing). A long white pole occasionally appears from the left side of the clip, ‘prodding’ the presenter to either continue the current story or look for another one. The most common criticisms – summarised well in this article from the website of the Islamist newspaper al-Sabeel – involve the presenter using “expressions containing sexual overtones” and “perverted scenes” aimed at corrupting younger generations, offending public morals and Islam, etc.

I’ll withhold my opinions as not to litter the blog with too many expletives. From a more measured standpoint, it’s probably worth pointing out how well the whole case fits into the broad “Islamic conservative versus Western moderniser” narrative that outside observers of Jordan love to latch on to (Elena Corbett’s article on the “Halloween ban” controversy last year sketches out the problem well, if tersely). Roya has been dragged into such spats before, with a (not too well populated) Facebook group calling the station out for not broadcasting Islamic calls to prayer – one issue brought up by many criticising the channel in the most recent controversy, along with doubts regarding the station’s ownership being Israeli.

Fadi Zaghmout has a good blog post up (in Arabic) explaining just how utterly misaimed the criticisms of the contentious sketch have been. What its creators were satirising was precisely the kind of social hypocrisy that has little to say against sexual insinuations in certain contexts – including children’s stories, but also for example films and music videos – but is exceedingly paranoid about any kind of attempt to discuss issues of gender and sexuality more openly. (Seen this way, the response then, maybe, proves the creators’ point.)

But as someone who is interested in how Jordanian media functions more broadly, what I think is just as important is how the case reflects on the broader dynamics of media legislation and the media environment in Jordan. This is an environment where social media campaign can drum up a three-week-old programme to the point where the Media Commission can order a broadcast suspension – even as the most recent amendments to Jordan’s Audiovisual Media Law no longer give the Commission the power to do so; an environment pervaded by a kind of constantly hovering, you-never-know-what-will-tick-it-off sense of overarching control, which stimulates self-censorship far more than any attempt at creativity or critical discussion.

Stick-poking on Ro’ya

Traffic Light Poetry

I just thought I’d share this little clip from the Fooq al-Sada team’s latest Tashweesh Wadih episode:

I’m not quite sure what’s going on with the consonant pronunciations there – likely an attempt to riff on Sudanese colloquial, according to the comments, as well as the lyrics / melody being a parody of this widely distributed clip – but all in all it’s a genius little take on recent traffic regime changes in Amman; in particular, putting up traffic lights at the “Eighth Circle” intersection in the west of the city.

[EDIT: h/t to Farah on Facebook for letting me know about the full clip of the original poem: LINK

Hilarious all on its own, and also direct example of how Bzour manages to parody all the other parts of a performance that don’t necessarily involve language (but are equally important for the general effect).]

(Note that the “Circles” in Amman are just enormous roundabouts, which however to guarantee any kind of traffic flow usually need to be manned by police officers at every sub-intersection (as in the image here: LINK) – which in essence isn’t all that different from a traffic light. Still, this didn’t stop people making up jokes last year when traffic lights were being put up at Seventh Circle – al-duwaar as-saabi3, الدوار السابع – re-imagining it as “the Former Circle,” al-duwaar as-saabiq الدوار السابق. )

Here are the “lyrics,” along with my attempt at a (working) translation:

قصيدة رثاء الدوار الثامن

آاااااااي

علقنا بأزمة كبيرة مش خفيفة
قالوا نشيل الدوار الثامن ونخلص من عجقة خبيسة

آااي

نركب مكانه اشارة تنظم السير وتكون للعين لطيفة

و
صفت السيارة صفت , صفت السيارة
صفت السيارة صفت ,ما فتحت اشارة

صفت السيارة صفت , صفت السيارة
صفت السيارة , ولعنا سيجارة
صفت السيارة صفت , صفت السيارة
صفت السيارة صفت ما فتحت اشارة
صفت السيارة صفت , صفت السيارة
صفت السيارة وخلصت السيجارة

صفت السيارة صفت , صفت السيارة
جنبي غاعدين بيبنوا في عمارة
صفت السيارة صفت , صفت السيارة
جنبي هسا هما خلصوا العمارة

وكله هذا صار، ما فتحت الاشارة

صفت السيارة صفت , صفت السيارة
عشت عمر طويل وانا قاعد في السيارة
قولولي كيف قولولي كيف
نخلص من اشارة

ولعنا سيجارة، تلعب العمارة، حافروا مغارة
كله هذا صار، مفتحت الاشارة

An Elegy for Eighth Circle

(Aaaaaaay!)
We were stuck in a great traffic jam – not a small one!
They said: We will raise Eighth Circle and get rid of the horrible crowds
(Aaay.)
Instead we’ll set up a traffic light, one that orders traffic and pleases the eye.

Aaaand…
The car stood still, the car stood still
The car stood still, the traffic light didn’t turn green
The car stood still, the car stood still
The car stood still, we lighted up (a cigarette)
The car stood still, the car stood still
The car stood still, the traffic light didn’t turn green
The car stood still, the cigarette went out

The car stood still, the car stood still
Next to me they’re building (a building)
The car stood still, the car stood still
They’ve finished the building now

All this happened, and the traffic light didn’t turn green

The car stood still, the car stood still
I lived a long life, sitting in my car
Tell me how, tell me how
We can get rid of the traffic light

We lighted a cigarette
The building opened
They dug a whole cavern
All of this happened
And the traffic light didn’t turn green!

Traffic Light Poetry

Gender and Emphatic Colouring in the Arab Homeland

Phonetic details can, sometimes, make all the difference. A few days ago, the Lebanese pop singer Elissa released a version of the popular Arab nationalist anthem “Mawtini.” (There’s some info on the song on its Wikipedia page; its lyrics are a poem written by the Palestinian poet Ibrahim Touqan (brother of Fadwa), and it formerly served as the anthem of Palestine as well as being the national anthem of Iraq since 2004.) Elissa’s effort was bound to stir up some reactions all by itself; it isn’t often that tacky female singers choose to tackle such deep-grounded symbols of Arabist (and pro-Palestinian) belonging. At least in Jordan, though, what attracted the most critique was Elissa’s alleged mispronunciation of the lyrics. A single consonant was at issue – but this was enough to arouse the ire of a gaggle of social media commentators, and draw out broad-ranging responses regarding gender, language, and the current state of the Arab nation.

Some phonological background first. Arabic – Standard, and all of its dialect variants – features a series of sounds that linguistic analyses like to call “emphatic.”  Phonetically, this involves both ‘pharyngealization’ – that is, constricting the pharynx or the epiglottis while pronouncing the sound – and ‘velarization’ – that is, raising the back of the tongue upwards so that it is in contact with the velum / soft palate (sort of the place where the tongue touches the roof of the mouth when you’re pronouncing or g). (For those mad souls who want more details, there’s a pretty thorough explanation of the phonetic issues in this 1972 article.)

emphatic schema

(A sketch showing differences in tongue position between an “emphatic” and “non-emphatic” sound. The dotted line (emphatic) touches the back of the mouth; the straight line (non-emphatic) does not. From Ali and Daniloff (1972); LINK)

The sin that Elissa committed was pronouncing one of these sounds – the alveolar stop, /ṭ/, ط (Taa’) in Arabic script – apparently without emphatic coloring. Even this might have been written off as a one-time ‘error’ (though more on whether it even is an error below) – if the mispronunciation didn’t occur in the very title of the song; which also serves as the refrain (and is repeated a total of 12 times throughout the lyrics). Instead of موطني، people claimed – which means “my homeland” – Elissa was singing موتني. mawtinii, not mawTinii.

Listen to the track above; you can judge for yourself. (Fingers crossed it will stay up for a while; the YouTube version has already been removed on Friday, apparently following a copyright claim.) The responses, in any case, were striking. Ro’ya TV’s news website did a roundup (as they sometimes do, for contentious issues) of social media comments. These include a few tweets and Facebook posts from Lebanon praising the recording, but many more critical ones from Jordan (and a couple of Gaza) taking issue with Elissa’s purported mispronunciation. (The writer of the roundup piece, ever diplomatic, characterized the enunciation as “delicate,” in “Elissa’s own special manner.”)

In many of these comments, the authors exchanged the “soft,” non-emphatic ت <t> for ط <ṭ> – not just in the title of the song, but in other words as well. فلسطيني falasTiinii “Palestinian,” for example, is normally spelled with a <ṭ>; in one tweet, Elissa was claimed to now have become فلستينية falastiniiyya, with a <t>. Another claimed that Ibrahim “Tou’aan” – توئان; the surname is properly spelled طوقان، with a <ṭ>, but suffered a change to <t> here, in addition to the stereotypically feminine and Lebanese shift from <q> to the glottal stop (<ʔ>) – did not die; rather, he “committed suicide after he heard Mawtini.”

The target here wasn’t just an isolated mispronounced sound, but purportedly ‘feminized’ variants of Arabic more broadly. To be expected, perhaps, from a Lebanese starlet such as Elissa; although, given that her error was conspicuously located in a self-consciously  nationalist song so often invoked as a symbol of Arab strength and resistance, the ‘corruption’ of “Mawtini” here seemed to be indicative of something deeper.

55428d7cdc498

(Elissa wearing a T-shirt with a misspelled “Mawtini.” Image via: LINK)

First, though, to clear the matter of whether it’s incorrect from a linguistic standpoint. Phonetically speaking, I’d say it’s at least up for debate. The release of the t – that is, the point at which the tongue leaves the roof of the mouth to allow airflow through – may be closer to the non-emphatic version; but if we consider the word as a whole, the preceding syllable – maw- – definitely has some ’emphatic’ coloring. (I’m pretty confident a phonetic analysis would confirm this; perhaps somebody with better skills than me might be able to check the formants in Praat or something…) The most marked feature of /ṭ/, the retraction of the tongue – the dotted line in the picture above – happens; just earlier than expected. It’s called “leftward emphasis spread” – basically, anticipating the ’emphatic’ sound before you actually pronounce it. Due to the particularities of human oral physiology, this kind of pre-coloring may actually be more likely than spread of emphasis “rightward” (i.e., following the “emphatic” sound rather than preceding it). Normally, you’d still expect it to sound different; but the traces are there.

It might be a phonetic peculiarity; non-normative, and possibly non-standard. But from a purely phonological perspective, it doesn’t mean that Elissa is not pronouncing the Taa’, or exchanging it for the non-emphatic version. It’s just that all the phonetic features that some of her listeners might expect aren’t present. In other words, she’s not pronouncing the lyrics as if she were actually saying mawtinii; it’s just her mawTinii that is different. (And it most certainly does not mean that Elissa is unable to enunciate ‘deep’ sounds altogether, as some commentators have claimed. The rest of the song features a couple of quite impeccable emphatic r-s, as well as /q/ in its standard form, [q], in its proper place, as opposed than the stereotypically feminine glottal stop.)

The song’s male chorus, by the way – see from about 3:10 in the video clip above – features a pretty much identical pronunciation of mawTinii. But of course, Elissa’s voice is the one fronting, and hence the more exposed.

On @anghami in less then hour #mawtini

A post shared by Elissa (@elissazkh) on

 

And that may, in fact, be the heart of the matter. A female singer attempting an Arab nationalist song will always be putting herself in the crossfire. Fully exposed, as a transmitter of the nation’s values – putting herself, metaphorically, in the position of the model Arab, the Palestinian longing for strength and independence – she needs to be nothing less than perfect. Even the most minute phonetic details become subject to scrutiny.

Double standards might be invoked here: the stereotypical position of women as ‘repositories of the nation’s virtue,’ and hence held to task for every slight or slip. But even for more sympathetic commentators (such as Hiba Jawhar) who say that “it’s not Elissa’s fault,” there was no doubt that Elissa’s pronunciation was, first, non-normative; and, second, indexical of femininity. The association with gender, though, is a higher-level one – perhaps almost incidental. Rather, the basic value conveyed by a non-emphatic pronunciation in place of an emphatic one – as with [t] for /ṭ/, or [ʔ] for /q/ – is that of ‘softness’; delicacy, in a sense, but one which also stands for degradation of linguistic rules, for people too meek or feeble to enunciate the more forceful sounds of Arabic.

Since Elissa is, in fact, female, all this comes round again, compounded. When a widely valued nationalist song that suffers linguistic degradation, it’s not too big a step to imagine the downfall of the nation as well. And if Arab women can’t even pronounce “Mawtini” correctly anymore, where is our homeland headed?

Where, indeed. For her most hardened critics, even an emphasis-perfect rendition by Elissa might not have been enough. As it was, though, it was phonetics that provided the ideal point of departure for critiquing her supposed transgressions – and the wave of responses it inspired proves just how deeply, and how scrupulously, Jordanians care about their homeland’s language in this day and age.

Gender and Emphatic Colouring in the Arab Homeland

Disarming Comedy

In the face of national tragedy, even the sharpest comedic minds can be stupefied. Last week’s تشويش واضح، “Clear Confusion,” a Jordanian comedy series that began on YouTube but now also broadcasts its newscast-style sketches regularly via the television channel Roya, naturally had to cover the death of Muath al-Kasasbeh. But anyone expecting a fresher or ironic take on the matter was to be disappointed. Though the basic elements of its style were still there, in the end the programme’s viewpoint was pretty much indistinguishable from any other expressed by public outlets during the protracted days of media obsession with the martyrdom.

Clearly Confused

A bit of context first. “Clear Confusion” is a video series that provides an ironic take on the newscast genre. A single presenter – Muath al-Bzour – comments on various local Jordanian news stories, often in a cynical or critical manner. The humor comes from Bzour’s treatment of the issues – often interspersed with short clips from Roya TV’s more ‘serious’ programmes, as well as Jordan state television – together with his (all-male) cast of colleagues, who play the part of producers, studio guests, or simply “citizens” that had somehow found their way into the studio and intrude upon the newscast to offer their own comments. There are ample non-sequiturs and absurd ‘behind-the-scenes’ glimpses, and also occasional short sketches located outside the ‘studio’ where the team takes on different comic roles.

Bzour serves mostly as a ‘straight-talk’ commentator, but he’s able to offer comic gems as well. This short exchange (from about 2:43 onwards in the YouTube clip below) is taken from the 28 January episode, busy critiquing the Jordanian government’s planned increase in electricity prices:

The issue is whether Jordan’s parliament would be able to challenge the government’s decision to raise electricity prices by 15%. The host on the TV clip asks his guest Hall wasaT? – “compromise?” (literally “middle solution”) – and Bzour immediately picks up on the expression, playing on the polysemy of the word wasaT (“middle” or “medium”) – which is also used colloquially to say how much sugar you would like in your coffee:

حلّ وسط؟

لا لا حلّ ع الريحة أحسن (..) أو لا السادة (..) فوق السادة

Compromise?

No, no, a solution “with a bit of sugar,” it’s better… Or, no, black! More than black

Here Bzour rifles through the entire range of options for coffee sweetening. وسط wasaT is with sugar; ع الريحة، with a little bit of sugar; سادة، saada, black. (The last expression – foog al-saada – is also the name of the company that produces “Clear Confusion.”) All in all, an inspired way to highlight the absurdity of the haggling spectacle played out between the parliamentarians and the ministerial side.

As mentioned, not all the show takes place from behind the newscaster’s table. Along with clips from ‘serious’ broadcasting, there are also original sketches by “Clear Confusion”‘s cast. The following, from the same episode as the coffee gag, re-imagines the “meeting between parliamentary committees and the government” on electricity prices as a back-room card game. The joke, again, depends on polysemy, this time of the word nazzil, “to reduce” or “bring down” – whether cards, or the planned increase in electricity prices, it’s not quite clear (and presumably, from the standpoint of the politicians involved, totally irrelevant). See the clip from 13:16 onwards:

(In the end, electricity prices would go up by 7.5%, following a deal between the government and the relevant parliament committees – even as parliament had in fact ended up voting against any kind of price increase.)

Political theater, indeed.

[tashweesh wadih] 1 - card game still

In Honor of the Martyr

The episode of “Clear Confusion” posted on YouTube on 10 February began with the familiar sight of Bzour sitting behind his newscaster desk with the shot of an urban panorama behind him. But from the very beginning you could tell there was something off’ about the whole thing. Bzour’s body gestures were more restrained than normal; his language, similarly, was a more elevated style of colloquial Arabic, with many formal words and expressions. All signs that this, now, was something serious.

And so it was. There was no sarcasm, no cutting comments. The out-of-studio sketches were replaced by black-and-white clips of members of the “Clear Confusion” team, reading out messages to Muath al-Kasasbeh – and his family, and the King, and the Jordanian people – all without a scrap of irony.

[tashweesh wadih] 2 - bw still

(Caption reads: “A message to the comrades of Martyr Muath”)

The only possible traces of a more ironic slant were the standard ‘citizen intrusions’ into the studio. But, even here, Bzour’s performance pretty much took out all the punch. At 17:48 in the clip, we can see one of his colleagues burst into the studio and begin to explain to him about a “fresh” piece of news (presumably, on Daesh / ISIS) he’d gotten from a news website with impeccable credentials – so many “Likes” on Facebook, so many تغريدات taghriidaat “tweets” per day, everything arranged with هاشتاغات haaštaaghaat “hashtags”…

[tashweesh wadih] 3 - rumors still

Bzour stops him before he can continue. He begins to explain, in an authoritative tone, how such websites have taken to spreading rumors, and that all their social media followership doesn’t matter if they’re spreading information that can’t be trusted. And, in any case, this isn’t what’s important. ISIS have made their message clear – that they’re horrendous criminals; any further mucking about with online news and tweets and hashtags is unnecessary. What’s important, now, is for all of “us” to stand together, shoulder to shoulder, and protect “our homeland.”

To this, the guest can say nothing but صحّ – “Yes, it’s true” – and leave the issue be.

In another mini-sketch (see clip above from 7:42 onwards), two other “citizens” burst into the studio and begin arguing about who is “truly” behind ISIS and has made the organization as powerful as they are. One guy claims America; the other, Iran. Their style of argumentation, their intonation, the phrases they use, their hand gestures: it all perfectly reflects the kind of heated ‘politics-argument’ that one could expect Jordanians (or, really, Jordanian men) to have over a cup of tea.

[tashweesh wadih] 3 - fitna still

Since it’s all going nowhere, Bzour again takes it upon himself to claim the floor, and save the day. But as in the news websites sketch, he doesn’t leave anything open to interpretation. Such debates happen every day – on Facebook, on Twitter, at the dinner table, and probably elsewhere – but end up resolving nothing. If anything, they’re harmful: they’re فتنة، fitna, the worst form of dissension, difference of opinion within a community that really should stand as one. If we find the argument funny, Bzour is here to tell us that, no, really, we shouldn’t. We should fight against this, and be one against ISIS and other forces of evil that sow dissent among the nation. The voice of reason here also stands for the national consensus, one which all Jordanians should follow.


There have been some ripples recently in academic work on Arab media, on the potential of Arabic web comedy series to challenge the media status quo. Layan Jawdat has analyzed this in the case of two YouTube comedy series from Saudi Arabia; Alexander Magidow, from a more language-oriented perspective, for بث بياخه، “Silly Broadcast,” another Jordanian creation. “Clear Confusion” may be different from these in that its aim is not entirely comic. As Bzour has previously explained (for example, in this interview for Radio Monte Carlo), the core aim of the programme is presenting local political and economic news – in a sarcastic manner, sure, though also one that allows people to absorb the information itself, even if they might find conventional news broadcasts tedious or boring.

And, perhaps, gain a critical viewpoint or two along the way. Jawdat makes a compelling argument for how this may work in the case of the Saudi videos:

“The messages… reveal sophistication and self-reflexivity in communicating weighty ideas related to issues of culture, society, economics, and politics. The satirical tools employed in the production of both shows enable the encoding of these messages in a pleasurable and entertaining way… Their sardonic take on media reporting indicates an actively engaged and analytical reading of the news that slyly calls viewers to do the same”

(Layan Jawdat, “Laughing in the Kingdom: On Saudi YouTube Comedy,” Jadaliyya, 11 November 2014 (LINK). Accessed 17 February 2015. Emphasis added)

Following Jawdat, and taking a page (or a couple) from Bakhtin, there is a dialogic aspect to this kind of comedic newscast – the sense that the message isn’t supposed to be just a clear reflection of reality, but that it can be challenged, understood from a different viewpoint than that which simply takes it at face value. Contrasted to this are monologic messages: those transmitted by authoritative voices, messages that are true, that have to be believed, or obeyed. (Or else.)

Normally, “Clear Confusion” riffs on the newscast genre in a way that challenges precisely these kind of claims to unilateral truth. The guests, and sketches, and intruders are left to stand on their own merit: up to the viewer to judge whether they, or Bzour with his critical commentary, might be the ones more correct in their treatment of issues.

But when talking about the nation’s beloved martyr, there was no alternative. The Kasasbeh episode ended up promoting a single voice – that embodied by Bzour: the voice of reason, one to clear up all disputes, standing ultimately for the Jordanian nation’s unblemished unity. So even web comedy was subjected to the silencing – or, better maybe, the unchallenged consensus – that swept local Jordanian media following Kasasbeh’s death. Only more proof, perhaps, that subversiveness can only ever go so far.

Disarming Comedy

ISIS and the Elephant

Not radio-related, but I couldn’t help but share this caricature by Latif Fityani that Roya TV has just posted on its Facebook page:

The reference here is to the Qur’anic Sura of the Elephant, in which God is said to have sent “birds in flights” against the enemies of the faithful (as a sign of His power), which in the Sura are referred to as أصحاب الفيل (People of the Elephant).

The “birds” here are, of course, symbolically, Jordan’s air force bombing the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (the flag sticking out of the frontmost elephant says “Daesh” [= ISIS]). The cloth (saddle blanket?) over the animal’s back says أصحاب الضلال والتضليل – “those who delude and deceive/misdirect,” which refers back to the Qur’anic quote both through the initial  أصحاب – literally “owners,” “friends” or “companions,” but also used to mean “those who…” or “people associated with…” – and the final تضليل “misdirection” or “leading astray” – which also occurs in the Qur’anic original (though as something that God inflicted upon the Elephant people, rather than one of their attributes), and is also in keeping with the verse-final -iil rhyme that occurs throughout the Sura.

The rest of the iconography – noble hawks / falcons / eagles, with Jordanian air force symbols on the underside of the wings, flying across a bleak landscape – fits very neatly into the various graphics posted by Jordanians and Jordanian media outlets on social media websites over the past few days.

ISIS and the Elephant